Someone interested in modern music sooner or later asks the question: “Where did it start?” Well, if you leave out blues guitar music, you won’t have many answers. So let’s see where the blues came from, where it went, and who it ran into along the way. We will also take a look at the “blues guitar sound” and how it has its unique effect on our feelings.
Blues as a musical phenomenon began around 1911 when W.C. Handy has released popular songs, particularly “Memphis Blues” and “St Louis Blues,” that have affected the hearts and souls of people of color. In the 1920s, the general population began to listen to this new music through its influence on jazz. Early blues singers such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday sang with jazz bands, while others played with “jug bands” accompanied by violin, ladle, and washboard.
Of course, for people like W. C. Handy, who grew up singing in church, the piano was the natural instrumental accompaniment to their songs. But the guitar is portable and has always been popular, so it had to have a place in blues and jazz. Blues guitarists like twelve-string guitarist and future electric guitarist B.B. King was making sure that the guitar was an integral part of the blues. Other blues guitarists made their living in smoky living rooms playing slide guitar using a bottleneck or the blade of a knife to shake notes.
After World War II, young artists like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley wrapped the blues in a new package called “rock’n’roll” and electric blues guitarists like BB King announced the arrival of the leading guitar, which will soon be a great attraction for both musicians and the public. During the evolution of the blues, the guitar had always had its turn for solos in jazz bands, but now it competed with the singer for public attention.
The blues guitar can be played in any key you like and comes in three basic forms: eight bars like “Heartbreak Hotel”, sixteen bars like “Saint James Infirmary” and twelve bars like “St. Louis Blues”. which is why the twelve bar blues form is much more suitable for singers and popular with audiences than the other two, and is the basis for many great songs outside of the blues language.
If you browse the internet, you will find that the blues scales are only the major and minor scales of their garden variety, except that the third, fifth, and seventh notes are played flat. However, you might be surprised to learn that blues musicians have been successful for centuries without knowing European music theory. They learned to sing and play from their families and friends, just like many of the young white blues musicians of the 1960s learned by imitating the artists they heard on records.
And this is where the blues takes another direction. After years of imitating their idols, something strange has happened to white blues guitarists in Britain and America. They have developed their own authentic and original styles. Older blues musicians even began to use the new arrangements of classical songs and adopt some of the non-blues music innovations pioneered by young white guitarists like Eric Clapton. Then the rhythm continues. A foreign culture influences American popular music and, in turn, receives new contributions from a new generation of guitarists from around the world.